Wednesday, 18 January 2012

How to train for the Yeovil Half Marathon

With entries approaching the 500 mark for the second Yeovil Half Marathon on Sunday 25th March 2012 its no wonder i've been getting a few questions about how to go about preparing for the race, especially from first timers. So here are a few thoughts:

Find a training partner
We know that it is much easier to get out training when its cold and dark when you have a training partner to share your goals and plans with. You are far more likely to do that extra midweek run when you know your buddy is waiting for you ! Even the top elites have regular run partners that they can call on for support when they are tired and not really feeling like it. So go on, phone a friend and make a commitment to run together.

Good running shoes
The No1 cause of injury (and hence frustration, anger, resentment etc !) is worn out running shoes. You dont want to do a really good couple of months of training just to miss out on the race because you got hurt. And looks can be deceptive, those 3 year old sneakers may look fine on the outside but the shock absorbing mid-sole will have had the life crushed out of it and in return will provide little protection to your feet and legs as several times your body weight lands with each stride (and keep in mind you will do about 15,000 strides in the half marathon alone !).

SPECIAL OFFER Tri UK in Yeovil (Lyde Rd, BA21 5DW) have an offer on for Yeovil Half Marathon entrants. Take a copy of your proof of entry to the store and get a 20% discount on your running shoes and a free treadmill gait analysis (usually £10) to help find the right pair of running shoes for you.

Train at the right speeds
There is a temptation to measure your fitness by making every training run into a time trial with success being to cover the same route faster than last week. Unfortunately running fitness doesn't work like that ! You need to run a variety of different speeds and mix hard training with easy. So if you are targetting 2 hours for the half (9 minutes a mile) then you need to be thinking in terms of three speeds.

Easy will be 11 mins a mile - this increases your aerobic fitness and gives you the stamina to survive the race. In training you should aim to build up to over 2 hours at this pace.

Race pace will be 9 minutes a mile - this gets you used to what a big effort feels like on race day. In training, once you are warmed up, run for a few minutes at race pace and then revert to easy. Keep alternating race pace and easy pace initially. Once you have got the feel for race pace after a few weeks you can make the race pace segments longer, up to 15 mins. A really good workout 3 weeks before the half marathon would be a longer run including 3 x 15 minutes at your race pace. If you can't manage that pace then you probably need to adjust your goals for race day.

Speed training will be 8 minutes a mile or faster - this teaches your body to move efficiently at fast speeds so that race pace will start to feel easy. This type of training needs to be done in small chunks otherwise it becomes too hard. So after a good warm up run 1 min at faster than race pace. Then run Easy for 2 mins. Repeat. Over a number of week build up to 10x1min fast then you can think about increasing the duration of each faster effort to 2 mins. Beware not to overdo this type training, its the icing on the cake (see below on balance).

Get the balance right
So you have got your running partner, new running shoes and 3 different speeds. How do you put it all together ? A good ratio would be one speed run and one race pace run for every 4 or 5 easy runs that you do. And make one of those easy runs longer than the others.

Its a big myth that training makes you fit, it doesn't. Training makes you tired and breaks your body down. Recovering from training makes you fitter. So getting this bit right is very important. What are the key elements of recovery ?

  1. Firstly food - you need to eat within an hour of finishing training to help your body start the repair process.
  2. Secondly hydration - many of us are dehydrated from working indoors and drinking tea/coffee. So start sipping water through the day.
  3. Thirdly sleep - the good news is that a new training regime with better eating and drinking will generally lead to better sleep. And a bit extra sleep will help you adapt to the training.
  4. Finally Hard/Easy - after a hard training day take one or two days easy. This will be different from for different people. It might mean a day off completely, or a swim or just an easy run.
  5. And at some point between now and end Feb plan a very easy week to consolidate your training.
The last 2 weeks are reserved for what marathon runners call the taper and its equally applicable to a half marathon though you will only need two weeks instead of three. More on this nearer the time.


ProGait Gait Analysis Manchester said...

Excellent advice! Thanks for sharing! I have now bookmarked your page :)

Jim said...

Thanks for the info, but a question for you - how long do you reckon it takes when back into intensive training to get to your near optimum performance ? I have run off and on for 30 years, am now 49, but still trying to achieve an elusive sub 3 marathon and sub 80 half. Having entered London last year, due to the heat, I did 3:18, previous best is 3:04 the previous year. I then didn't run much until just before Christmas, but am now back into running 2 hard sessions a week (track and club), 2 recovery sessions and one long run. I can now seem to train more consistently than before without injury, but wonder whether at my age I can still expect an improvement and if so, how long before I get to any likelihood of being at my optimum. Thanks for any reply

Adrian Marriott said...


3.04 at 48 points towards the potential for a sub and consistent training is the key to progess rather than smashing out intense workouts for a few months :-)

If its injury that keeps on derailing you then try a couple of things - run easier on your easy days and spread out your hard days further. For example I sometimes go at 8mins a mile to recover and during my 50k build up often ran long or hard only twice a week to ensure I stay healthy.

I also wonder about the speed of intense sessions ? If you are going at 5k pace on teh track and say one hour race pace on teh club runs how does that relate to your stated goals ? Consider making teh track reps longer and slower - say 8km at threshold pace. And the club runs 40-50mins at marathon pace. This 'extensive' endurance will serve you well.

Hope this helps